This year marks the 50th anniversary of the New Year’s Day Youth Rugby Tournament. Whether you are recovering from a night of sipping bubbles, or just looking for a relaxed family fun day, the tournament is free and will be held at the Hong Kong Football Club, January 1, 2017. What a better way to ring in the New Year than to watch someone else play rugby?
For the past fifty years, come hell or hangover, Hong Kong families have been gathering to compete on the pitch for the New Year’s Day Youth Rugby Tournament. The NYDYRT itself has existed in various forms and originated in 1967 as a match pitting the “Hong Kong boys” against the “Overseas Boys”. Today, it has evolved to include girls and other various age grades, making it more inclusive. A tournament steeped in tradition – there have been at least two, if not three, generations of families that have taken part in the annual games.
In acknowledgement of this incredibly important milestone and the importance of the tournament in the Hong Kong community, we’ve put together a few memories of tournaments past from families who have had multiple participants and even multiple generations run out at Hong Kong Football Club on January 1st.
“The New Years Day Tournament for youth was and still is one of biggest, most fun rugby events of the year. I played in my first ever NYD tournament as an U19 in 2009, so I was a bit late to the game. However, I made sure that I was able to play in every single one following, and once I was too old to play, went back to help coach one of the teams. It was exciting because we got to play with and against our friends and fellow teammates in front of a large crowd. The tournament was also one of the few chances we had to play XV’s rugby, because most of our league at the time was VII’s based. It was our chance to showcase our skills and enjoy ourselves.
Probably my fondest memory was in 2010 when I made a try-saving tackle. The opposing team had broken our defence line in the 5m channel and was charging towards the try line. I chased her down from the opposite sideline and tackled her into touch just as she was about to score the try. Never give up, and don’t forget a good defence wins games! I was very honoured that year to win the Larry Abel Award.
When I look back, I always smile because NYD shows how close-knit and supportive the rugby community is in Hong Kong. Some of my current Hong Kong teammates, I met at NYD. I especially remember looking up to and being coached by Lindsay Varty and playing against Aggie Poon who would run circles around us. Girls rugby has come a long way since I started playing, and NYD is a tournament that showcases the growing skills and talent of the future players of Hong Kong Rugby.”
Ken Woodward: “I have been involved in HKFC NYD tournament for many years as a parent, coach, player. Now in my most favoured role, a spectator! It is an exciting and vibrant tournament that involves boys and girls from different age groups and is a competitive stepping board for many players who have gone on to bigger and better things in the world of rugby. Indeed many have represented HK at 7s and 15s.
However, perhaps the most poignant year was 2007 when I played for the Veterans (Kowloon side v Hong Kong side) in the 40th anniversary game (when I say played I use that term most judiciously, I walked around and got substituted as quickly as possible) and both my sons Leo and Max played for HK in their respective year groups.
So for once and once only all three Woodward boys were on team lists included in the match day programme. I was a very proud father as it was a special moment for our family. Not sure the younger Woodward’s were as proud as their father when they watched him play, indeed I think they thought the very opposite!
Some anecdotal points from the Vets game include a most soothing and relaxing pre match speech from Dave Lewis (captain of Kowloon Vets). He invoked the concept of fair play and requested Corinthian spirirt all round!!!! We ran on to start the game with interesting thoughts in our heads. Many other interesting old acquaintances were remade (especially in the front row) and suitable greetings were exchanged. The other smart move was to get an old ball 1967 style with a lace in. It weighed a ton and was almost impossible to catch.
So, great memories from the Woodward family from the NYD tournament(s). I wish all players, coaching and back up staff good luck for the 2017 competition and long may this great event remain in the HK rugby calendar.”
The New Year’s Day tournament was always the rugby highlight of the year for me (after going to the Rugby 7s of course). We had played all year for our club teams (in my case, the Kai Tak Tigers) and it was culmination of all our effort and hard work to get selected for the big show down between Kowloon and HK Island, or Dragons v Tigers or whatever it was, it didn’t matter, it was our chance to play rugby in front of a crowd of people. I remember being given my first NYD jersey, a ‘one size fits all’ parachute type thing which I tucked it into my oversized shorts so it wouldn’t billow in the wind too much and I was incredibly happy. my family were so happy for me too and never missed a single match of mine at NYD. We couldn’t go on holiday over christmas for years because they knew what that tournament meant for me!
None of us had been playing rugby for very long and the women’s rugby scene was still very fresh in Hong Kong, so I can’t imagine the standard of rugby was great but to us, it was the World Cup! I remember my parents would always be there at 8 in the morning on New Years Day cheering me on- they still come to all my matches now for Hong Kong, and have even acquired a huge Hong Kong flag that they wave while screaming my name (very embarrassing but also very sweet of them!)
My fondest memory of playing at the NYD tournament was when I was 16, and the ball came loose from the opposition’s ruck and bounced fortuitously right into my hands. I saw my moment and ran the entire length of the pitch to score our wining try. I remember being so happy holding the trophy with all my friends and team mates around me and knowing for sure that rugby would be a huge part of my life for years to come. I also love this moment because two of my team mates from that day were Colleen Tjosvold and Aggie Poon, who I still play rugby with today. Rugby in Hong Kong is more than just a sport, it’s a family that just keeps growing!
Simon may not have played in the New Year’s Day tournament himself, but he did help coach the Under 12 Peninsula team to victory in 2005, and he and his wife Baba have been ever-present in the spectator stand for 17 years, watching not 1, not 2 but 4 sons work their way through the age groups…eldest lad Hamish first pulled on his boots on the 1st January in 2001, closely followed by Robert, then Angus with young Fergus the last of the clan hoping to bring the dynasty to a close with a run for the Overseas Under 19s this year. In total that makes about 16 matches that have featured a Reid-Kay down the years…surely a record!
What: New Year’s Day Youth Rugby Tournament
When: January 1, 2017
Where: Hong Kong Football Club
How Much: FREE